Colon, Panama 2015
I’ve known for a year about a huge bike ride, a tour really, that happens in Panama, called Ocean to Ocean (now called Gran Fondo Panamá). A ride from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean in one day, some 82 km, aka less than 100 miles or 1.5 hrs driving. The only bike ride like it in the world!!! I wanted to do it last year but someone scared me into not doing it because it would be to ******* hard using a fixie. This effort was well timed also since I was injured and not able to run for the past 3 months (I focused instead on biking and swimming).
A fixie is a single speed bike where basically all you have for power are your 2 legs. It is the bike I have here and I use it for everything…it is my main vehicle!
After succumbing to the thoughts of others about can and can’t I stopped training for it. Lesson learned because you can do anything, if you put your mind to it! This year I went for it on my fixie and all!
I trained and trained and trained! Here in the city and away.
One long ride I did to train for it was actually a simple feat for me because that same person who scared me out of doing the tour also scared me out of exploring on bike beautiful parts just outside of the city that I really wished to ride to…and when I actually just went for it, a year later, I was mad. Mad because I had waited so long accepting someone else’s idea of what one can’t do on a fixie or can’t do alone.
This ride was to Gamboa, some 40 km from the city (30 min drive) to and through the Rainforest…true you go through some well trafficked parts but there is totally enough room almost the whole way, just be alert to the cars, plus many cyclists go out there whether in groups or solo…And it is SOO WORTH GOING. Nothing is better then the sound of two wheels on pavement and the noises of birds and monkeys under the fresh jungle air! I’ve gone a few times now…originally the plan was to go in group to be safe but the day I showed up for the group no one was around so I said F it let’s see how it goes…
Another long ride I fit in was also on the list but not in Panamá…no super pretty nor challenging but I saw it and said I’d return for it! I got the opportunity this month to return to Colombia for work and it was #1 on the list (after of course). Work sent me to be a motivational speaker for an running event in our Colombia office. A very special and cool experience for me and I am happy to have been invited! It was a weekend so I said well if I have to work after I’ll make the most of it and do that ride I’d been interested in doing. A friend lent me their bike and off I went from the capital of 10 million to Zipaquira (famous for their salt mines which double as a cathedral)! There is a bike path out that way so I set my sights on getting there…it was a 70km ride there and back. I was impressed with the crazy amount of cyclists out that way…very cool (Bogota also has a 100+ km closed ciclovia on Sundays…so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised). I´d been previously to the cathedral but not the city’s plaza…so that was my tourist stop…very cute town! 😀 My friends don’t bike much although they have bikes and want to start a company with bikes so they were a bit worried about my requests although amazingly supportive…they drove out there with me making sure I did not miss my turnoff points! On the way back I actually beat them due to traffic and I found another biker to team up with…mtn bike team :D. So thankful to my friends who we’re more than amazing…they drove the 2 hours out and back on his birthday weekend and even saved me a Chocorama as a reward, yeah!
All that training and I was ready for the big day…well at least I hoped so…with no elevation map…I went in blind…and I almost didn´t even have a ride to the start!
The ride goes from Colon to Panamá, some 82 km on the old road. This year they opened up a longer route that took you across 2 bridges that cross the canal and to the city of Chorrera. Of course I opted for that, some 135 km. Over 2,500 cyclists participated in the tour including guest riders, George Hincapie (US), Alessandro Petacchi (IT), Fernando Gaviria (COL), Ramón Carretero (PAN) in addition to other international cyclists.
My day started at 3 am when I rode my bike to the bus pickup some 7 km (a little over 4 miles) from my apartment – through the party area with my head down in shame (i´m sure they didn´t even notice or remember). At the pickup I ran into some bikers I knew and we chatted as we waited to load the bikes and get on the bus. The ride to Colon is a bit over an hour so I tried to sleep but it didn´t work so well as I chatted intermittently with the girl next to me. When I first sat down she said hey you are so and so…I follow you on Instagram lol…I´m was like, do I follow you? She seemed cool so we chatted and hungout throughout the tour.
Upon arrival to Colon I took some photos and enjoyed the early am bike rider atmosphere of people checking out my bike, going to the bathroom, hydrating, and warming their muscles or stretching. Around 7 am we started to roll out. Again easily making friends along the way and seeing others I knew. Very friendly atmosphere, actually one of my favorite parts of the ride. People were happy, friendly, excited and challenged by the tour.
I hardly recall the beginning just the ton of cyclists. It was hard to focus on the surroundings. I was just in awe every curve and incline where you could see the sheer number of cyclists with varying colors in the distance. I do remember that the first half had quite a few hills or as I would say long inclines. Nothing really tough…although this is coming from the fixie that passed many people on those hills with their fancy gear changing bikes! I was there for the tour just as much as the challenge…I love challenges!
Passing a few more cities we crossed the main highway/corredor norte (finally a place I recognized…where Anca – a friend who visited – and I made an accidental detour..jaja) and entered the jungle on our way to Paraiso (town called Paradise)….it was paradise I tell you, fresh air, wonderful smells and sounds, sunlight flickering through the leaves and nearly all was downhill. After the jungle section we reached a place I had been to on the bike before…Summit…we went past and headed toward Panamá. Once at the Puente Centenario we did a split off…distance wise. I must say I had crossed this bridge before but this time it was more exciting…as I crossed the bridge I took note that we were passing the Panamá Canal…obviously cool but on top of that I received cheers as I passed a group of cyclists…why…because I was kicking butt on a fixie for crying out loud and people were more than impressed!
After the bridge though I only lasted so long entertainment wise because that new exploratory sensation in me wore off quick as the road became a boring ugly highway with nothing entertaining…not even trees. I totally recommend just doing the 82 km for this reason. Not only are you ugly highway riding but you are BOILING under the SUN!!! It seemed to go forever and ever but we finally made the turn around. The return was not so bad but by then I was just dying to get off the freeway and needed water refills (there were hydration stops)…I hope they change this route next year and put some nicer streets because I must say crossing the two canal bridges was well worth it! So the final highlight of the ride was going over Puente de las Americas…the first bridge built to cross the Panamá Canal…it is massive and historic and I had been wanting to cross it FOREVER (on bike)…but due to safety I had not attempted.
Crossing the bridge was cool! It has 2 lanes each direction and they closed one whole lane for the tour and with safety vehicles to protect us. 😀 The views were great. At the bottom we veered off to Amador Causeway to finish my 5 hour journey…of course most had already finished (given most did 82km only) so it was quite boring crossing this META. I continued on a bit because my ideal distance was not 135 km but 100 miles. I thought I calculated it right…but it appears I was 3 miles short of my century,…bummer! At the finish they had food included for the riders, a raffle and a concert.
It was a great ride, I´d do it again, and even on the fixie…though I would suggest only the 82km route or ride to Colon and back with the tour…eh. In general great atmosphere and well organized.
A few days later I purchased a new bike, a road bike. Check out the fotos for a peak 😀
Sign up (Inscríbate) for Gran Fondo here: http://www.gfpanama.com
Other blogs about Panama life: